THE BLOG
10/28/2008 02:32 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

McCain's Middle East Policy. Part II: Not a Task from God, but a Bridge to Nowhere

In Part I of this series that was posted yesterday, I described John McCain's confusion about important facts in the Middle East, but his clarity and determination when it comes to waging wars there. Needless to say, the combination of the two is extremely dangerous.

In this article I would like to present a summary of the Middle East policy of the Bush administration which has led to the present catastrophic situation there. Why is this relevant to McCain's bid for the presidency? Because he has been the leading cheerleader for, and forceful advocate of, this policy. McCain has said repeatedly that,

on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement and support of President Bush,

and has been totally committed to the full Bush/Cheney catastrophe in the Middle East (not to mention their reckless tax breaks for the rich and an unregulated market). Therefore, it should be clear to everyone that he would continue the same policy. Let us consider the consequences of the policy in four volatile countries.

Iraq: What is the price that the Iraqi people have paid for the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime?

(i) Iraq has effectively been partitioned between the Shi'ites, Sunnis, and the Kurds. If there seems to be relative calm in the country, it is because a vast ethnic cleansing was carried out by all the three groups.

(ii) Iraq became a vast training ground for extremists from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, and Kuwait. Many of them are now moving to Afghanistan, or to their own countries to start some radical groups.

(iii) Iraq's infrastructure was practically destroyed. It would take decades to put Iraq back to where it was before the war.

(iv) Iraqi prisoners were tortured at Abu Gharib and elsewhere, tarnishing the image of the U.S.

(v) 2 million Iraqis, who are clearly the highly educated professionals and the affluent, have left their country. Their departure is a great brain drain. Proportionally, it would be equivalent to 24 million Americans leaving the U.S.

(vi) 2.7 million Iraqis have been displaced within Iraq. Proportionally, it would be equivalent to 30 million American refugees within the U.S.

(vii) As many as 1.1 million Iraqis from all walks of life may have been killed. Proportionally, it would as if over 13 million Americans have been killed, a staggering number.

(viii) At least 1 million Iraq children have become orphan.

(ix) 70 percent of Iraqi children suffer from mental stress disorder.

(x) The total cost of the invasion and occupation has so far been over $600 billion. That would be the budget, for a period of 10 years, to double funding for cancer research, treat every American with diabetes or heart disease, and carry out a global immunization campaign to save millions of children. Joseph Stiglitz, the 2001 Nobel Laureate for economics, and Linda Bilmes of Harvard University, estimated that the eventual cost of the war may reach $2 trillion.

Afghanistan: After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there was an ocean of good will towards the U.S., and great support for destroying Al Qaeda. But, the Bush administration ruined all that good will. Afghanistan was attacked, even though the U.S. knew that the Al Qaeda leadership had already escaped to the border region with Pakistan, and the Taliban were overthrown. But, where is Afghanistan today?

(i) The Taliban are resurgent. They are gaining ground and the support of the ethnic Pashtu's, and control most of southern Afghanistan. Recall that they were despised right before the 9/11 attacks.

(ii) Not only the lives of the vast majority of the Afghan people have not improved, but also deteriorated. The unemployment is at least 60%.

(iii) In a nation that has historically had little tolerance for foreigners and their agents, President Hamid Karzai is viewed by many Afghans as a puppet of the U.S.

(iv) Opium production, that had been banned under Taliban, is thriving. It supplies 93% of the world's extant heroin, and 53% of Afghanistan's GPD.

(v) The government is hardly controlling anywhere beyond Kabul, the Capital. The country has been effectively partitioned between warlords.

(vi) Practically every day innocent civilians are killed by NATO bombing, causing strong backlash against NATO.

(vii) Both McCain and Senator Obama have indicated that they would escalate the war. That would add only to the misery.

The result? An economic basket nation, needing very large international aid to barely survive, one that will not be a viable State for decades, if ever. The U.S. will be involved there for the foreseeable future.

Pakistan: Since 9/11 the U.S. has given Pakistan $11 billion in aid, in addition to forgiving its previous debts. 80% of this aid has gone to the military to supposedly fight the Al Qaeda terrorists. But, where is Pakistan today?

(i) 90% of the military aid has been used to buy advanced weapons and deploy them at Pakistan/India border, one of the most unstable border areas in the world, where two nuclear nations are lined up against each other.

(ii) The government has signed peace agreements with the Taliban's sympathizers in the western and northern Pakistan provinces, hence giving them secure places to train radicals to send them into Afghanistan.

(iii) Attacks by the U.S. forces inside Pakistan have angered most Pakistanis. Even the pro-West president, Asif Ali Zardari, has been forced to take anti-U.S. posture.

The result is an unstable nuclear nation with a large number of radicals in its military intelligence (the ISI) who support Taliban, and are becoming increasingly angrier at the U.S.

Lebanon: When the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated on February 14, 2005, the Bush administration supported the so-called Cedar Revolution and pushed for democratic elections, which were held in Spring 2005.

But, not only did Hezbollah receive a significant fraction of the votes and send 14 representative to the parliament, but its partners in the March 8 coalition also received significant votes, and Hezbollah joined the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in July 2005. It is still part of the government.

But, Bush kept provoking Siniora against Hezbollah and its allies, notably Michel Aoun, the Maronite ex-General. The result was complete paralysis of the government. Then, the Summer 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel broke out. With strong support by Bush and Cheney, Israel waged a full scale war. When asked by Larry King of the CNN whether he supports what Israel is going, McCain said, "I do, and I think that this is a situation where a country has been attacked.... I am not sure we should be advocating restraint."

Meanwhile, the U.S. prevented the United Nations Security Council from reaching any consensus regarding a ceasefire, in order to buy time for Israel to crush the Hezbollah, with Condi Rice promising a "new Middle East." But, 1200 Lebanese (1000 of them civilians) and over 150 Israelis (40 of them civilians) were killed, the infrastructure of Lebanon was greatly damaged by Israel's bombings, and Hezbollah won the war. General John Abizaid, then the Centcom. Commander said that the Iranians "have given us a hint about things to come." Hezbollah remained intact, with its popularity vast in the Arab world.

Bush, however, continued his meddling. He provoked Siniora to sack the security chief of Beirut's airport, allegedly a Hezbollah member, and shut down Hezbollah's optical communication network that had played a crucial role in its victory over Israel. In response, Hezbollah swiftly took over West Beirut over, and routed forces loyal to Siniora. It eventually got all of its demands and more. Michel Suleiman, the General with whom Hezbollah has good relations, is now the president, and Hezbollah is more powerful than ever.

Palestine/Israel: There is no need to review what has happened to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. When Bill Clinton left the White House in January 2001, they were tantalizingly close to a peace agreement. Today, the probability for the peace is practically non-existent. Bush is the first U.S. president who actually recognized Israel policy of settlements in the West Bank and their annexation, giving Israel a secret letter committing the U.S. to such a policy. Bush has paid lip service to the establishment of an independent Palestinian State.

Therefore, although Sarah Palin has claimed that the war in Iraq is "a task from God," the reality is that that war and the policy that McCain has supported so strongly, and will continue if he is elected the president, are a bridge to nowhere, but to more catastrophe, more dead, wounded, and destruction, with the U.S. getting and going nowhere.

Tomorrow: The foreign policy advisors in a McCain administration.